July 2010 - The Vienna Vibes Audio Fest



              

 

Inspired by the great audio gatherings in Munich and Berlin in the last three years, we set up a similar event in Austria. All of our international audio friends were waiting for us to finally organize such a festival, so we (the Austrian vinyl and triode amp lovers Alexander, David, Josef and I) made a firm commitment to host the first Vienna Vibes Audio Event in early July 2010.

Thanks to Alexander's girlfriend, Gerlinde, we found the perfect place for the venue, which was the Bundesfinanzakademie in Vienna's 3rd district, close to Vienna's center. A toast to Gerlinde for helping us to get this possibility! Also, a big thank you to the Bundesfinanzakademie (BFA) for hosting 45 audio maniacs and to the bistro of the BFA for the delicious food.

By the way, I hope to convince Gerlinde one day to come up with her views on our "sometimes crazy" audio hobby here on my website, so stay tuned to hopefully encounter the opinion of a smart and perceptive woman about our beloved hobby. ;-)

***

The Vienna Vibes turned out to be a great event with wonderful spirit and atmosphere, mainly because of the good mood of the participants attending this festival.

Although Vienna showed itself from the "hottest" side (30+ degrees Celsius on all of the 3 days), and there was no air conditioning in the venue place, we had a terrific time together.

We enjoyed the good acoustics, nice music, great beer, good food and interesting chats, and so had low amounts of sleep all through the Vibes festival. It was definitely fun playing music on our systems every day until the early morning hours.

Our Berlin friends (among them Frank Schroeder, Michael Ulbrich and Thomas Schick) brought a great tube-based system to Vienna with two-way speakers, a direct drive TT and Schroeder, Schick as well as Ortofon tonearms and various cartridges as sources.


Frank Schroeder's direct drive TT with Ortofon, Schroeder and Schick TAs plus SPUs
and more to chose from... wonderful! 

Michael Ulbrich's 2A3 mono block magic :-)
These OPTs are mighty impressive, aren't they?



The 2-way loudspeaker of our Berlin friends uses
the famous 12" JBL 123-A bass driver with
3 options for the treble section (one of them a
Romar, Berlin-Treptow field coil from the 1950s)

 



Relaxed listening guaranteed...


Frank Schroeder did a demo on different TT drive systems with the direct drive TT he brought to the Vibes, as this TT could also be used as a belt drive. Frank did a special demo with this TT at the Vibes, comparing direct drive with a belt drive [two versions of the latter using the external DC motor with a) tape and b) flat rubber belt]. There was also the option to compare an eddy-current brake for the platter against the version without the brake activated.

There was no clear winner as some preferred direct drive without eddy-current brake for the platter, and others the belt drive with tape. The whole demo was highly interesting and fun. Thanks a lot, Frank! :-)

We had one room with an Altec LS system with Wolf von Langa field coil drivers, a Garrard 401 TT with Ikeda tonearm plus top of the line AirTight MC cartridge and highly-acclaimed Air Tight amplification which Wolf and his friend Uwe brought to the Vibes. Great and direct sound, plain fun to listen to. During the time I auditioned the system, Uwe was playing the Speakers Corner reissue of Mahalia Jackson at Newport and this was really a wonderful and moving experience with lifelike realism. 


Altec multicellular horns

Impressive Wolf von Langa field coil driver for
the mid / hf-horn

Gorgeous Garrard 401 with Ikeda tonearm and
Air Tight MC cartridg


 

Impressive Air Tight ATM–3 mono block amplifiers

 
***

 
In one of the rooms, we had my pimped Lenco L75 accompanied by my Schick 12" tone arm and a Denon 103R mounted into a RS-Labs headshell. Later, we also tried a 103R in an Uwe wood body with Uwe headshell. The latter combination was definitely an improvement over the 103R in the RS-Labs headshell. For amplification, we used a wonderful, open and colorful sounding DIY tube phono stage built by Bernd Uecker and a modified, great sounding Simel tube linestage which another German friend had brought to the festival. Alternating to the Simel was Martin Kueng's excellent transistor linestage, both driven by Martin Kueng's superb new transistor mono blocks. We also used his line of power cables and speaker cables with these components.
Loudspeakers of choice were the Haigner modified Altec Valencias which I have enjoyed for nearly two years now, while waiting for my Haigner Gamma Horn-system. The sound was musically and rhythmically pleasing with a lot of power, which let us rock the room via the Valencias. The mixture of tube and transistor amps worked great in this set-up. A really good match, and I was not alone in this opinion. ;-)

 




Love this photo of the Lenco, Schick, Denon combination, which Thomas Schick took...



Alexander and Oliver listening to me 
describing my "Way to glorious sound" by 
pimping the Lenco L75 ;-)

 
***

On Saturday, we also tried Bernhard Kistner's TT with special drive system and a Shreve-Rabco tangential tone arm. Cartridge was a Supex, as I recall a SDX 1000 MC cartridge. As David C Shreve was also participating in our festival, he and Bernhard carefully set the TT, and this was definitely worth it. Thanks to the new drive system Bernhard had implemented into the TT quite recently, the TT and arm and cartridge combination truly sang. I've never heard this TT perform so well. This was truly a world-class combination and sounded superb with all kinds of music.

In the back, excellent Martin Kueng line-stage, mono power-amps and DAC (all in black) as well as great sounding DIY tube phono-stage from Bernd Uecker (blue chassis)




Bernhard Kistner's great sounding TT with David C Shreve modified Rabco parallel tracking TA and Supex MC cartridge.


 



 

One of the highlights of the Vienna Vibes was, of course, the tube amp magic of Thomas Mayer. He brought to the festival his superb LCR RIAA phono, built around the 6AM4 triode, his new universal DHT line stage plus SE DHT power amps with 45 as well as 801A output tubes. Connected to David Haigner's Tau and using David's Platine Verdier with SME 3012 tonearm and my Shelter 501 II as source, musical pleasure was guaranteed. Thomas also performed a comparison of various DHT tubes with the special line stage he had built to demo the first time at our Vienna Vibes festival.

 



6AM4 based LCR phono



This comparison of some of the most valued DHTs in a line stage was truly awesome. We had the chance to listen to and compare the 12A, super vintage UX-201A, 26, VT-25 / 10, VT-62 / 801A  in one line stage. That was, as far as I am aware, the first time such a comparison of these venerable triodes in a line stage has publicly happened. A world premier, thanks a lot Thomas!



Gorgeous, aren't they...

Thomas explaining the circuit of the 
universal line stage


 


 

Magical VT-62 / 801A

To my ears, the VT-25 and VT-62 - both Tungsten filament DHTs - were the winners for the most musical but also the truest reproduction of the music played. For blues music though, the oldest tube, the UX-201A won my heart as the sound was as "dirty" and "bluesy" as it gets. Ok, this tube adds a little bit too much to the sound to be my choice for jazz or classical music, but for Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, etc. and especially acoustic Delta Blues, this is the tube to go for.  ;-)

Lesson learned: For most of my music, a preamplifier with VT-25 or VT-62 would be ideal. For my beloved blues, hey let's get a preamp with these UX-201As and dig into all these old recordings!

***

Friday and Saturday late evening, Alexander, the jazz connoisseur within our Viennese audio circle, was DJ for our guests. He dug deep into his amazing jazz collection for two vinyl-playing sessions called " Gems of Jazz on Vinyl". He picked wonderful records among them:

        • Dave Pike, Pike's Peak 

        • Grant Green, Idle Moments 

        • Clifford Jordan, Glass Bead Games 

        • Jose Feliciano, Encore! 

        • Wynton Kelly, Kelly Great 

        • Herb Ellis, After You're Gone 

        • Hoagy Carmichael, Hoagy Sings Carmichael

        • Marci di Marco Chris Woods Sextet, Together in Paris 

        • Bill Evans Quintet, Interplay 

        • Johnny Bristol, Hang On In There Baby 

 
Everyone loved it :-)

***

You think that was all? No way. We had more highlights at the Vibes, thanks to our Austrian loudspeaker guru David Haigner. David did two great and informative lectures on horn loudspeakers and room acoustics.


 

 
And on Saturday evening, David let us hear my upcoming Gamma Horn-system - in a prototype cross over version - the first time. Fantastic! He also built an amazing sub-bass system (comprising four 18" bass chassis per channel) which, together with my Gammas, delivered such bass energy that our 80 sqm main listening room started to shake. That was an extremely cool experience.




 

The lecture on room acoustics which David gave on Saturday was highly informative. By moving back and forth in the room and also to the room corners he demonstrated - just using his speaking voice - the weak points of our 40 sqm demo room. The resonant room modes colored his voice quite strongly, especially when he was near the room corners. Then, we placed some diffuser/absorber-elements which David had constructed, taking into account the room dimensions. We all were quite surprised by how his voice sounded different. Also, when walking into the room corners, his voice sounded mainly as uncolored as in the better areas of the room (i.e. about 1/5 of the room length and width away from rear and side wall).




 

 

The music examples played afterwards with and without room treatment, showed the difference in sound as well. With room treatment the sound was more natural, there was better bass definition and no wooly bass performance anymore. Lesson learned: Choosing absorber- and diffuser elements with care and knowledge is a worthwhile improvement to one's listening room. Wholeheartedly recommended!

***

Finally, we had a lecture by David C Shreve on setting the proper VTA for a chosen arm and cartridge combination. David is nicknamed "Mr. VTA," and deservedly so. David showed how to find a really good VTA setting in no time by listening to a record with a well-recorded acoustic bass sequence. He mainly uses one particular track of an LP (Flying Fish HDS 701) for this task. Within three to four height adjustments of the arm/cartridge combination, and listening carefully to some seconds of this acoustic bass track, one could really hear quite big differences and find the audibly superior position - as David called it "the average" - VTA adjustment.
Lesson learned: Take enough time to set all the cartridge / arm parameters as exactly as possible. It is very important!

 
All in all, the Vienna Vibes was a great and fun audio event, and, on behalf of the Vienna Vibes team, I would like to thank all of our participants who made this event such a success. A big thank you also to everyone for helping in assembling and disassembling  the systems and for bringing all the equipment to the festival. Great job. The biggest thanks to Josef, who had a bad bike accident on Saturday but still helped me carry all the equipment back to my place the next day. Buddy, you are a real trooper! Thanks to Dietmar H., Frank S., Kurt B., Oliver K., Juergen P. and Thomas S. for sharing their photos for this report. Finally,  I have to thank my wife Heather for all the support during the preparation stage and beyond. Sweetie, you are a true wonder!


Musically yours,

Norbert

Here are some more cool photos of the participants and gear capturing the great atmosphere:

Joe Aigner tube amp creations. Very impressive 
indeed

 
Joe's line and phono stage with UX-201A tubes


 

Thomas Schick, always a smile on his lips... 

The participants having a good time...

Josef Aigner's UX-201A phono stage


 

more of Joe's tube magic...

Michael thanking the audio gods that the big 
system in the main room finally worked ;-)

 

 

Alex and Bernd helping to get a provisional crossover version
 for the Gammas ready... 

As you can see, we only had fruit juice 
at the Vibes ;-)

Wolf & Uwe


 

Main room LS-system (right channel)

Alex and Christoph discussing the Gamma 

Thank God, we also had beer :-)


and finally...


Norbert, the happy owner of a - not yet finished - but truly world-class loudspeaker
 

PS: If you want to see wonderful photo impressions of Vienna and the Vibes, please visit Thomas Schick's site.
 

 
 


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